Developing teaching practice


Continuous increase of global reliance on sessional staff in higher education has not been accompanied by the development of strategies to enhance quality learning and teaching or understanding the experiences of these staff. This has resulted in a general discontent among this category of academics. The growing importance of building respectful working environments that integrate inclusive care and performance quality leads to the emergence of standards frameworks. Explorations of sessional staff lived experiences are vital to inform policy and practice. This study examined sessional staff predominantly in a marking role in a local context of an Aotearoa/New Zealand University. We explored our markers’ agreement with selected principles of an Australian national framework. Based on an anonymous Qualtrics survey, the quantitative data showed our markers agreed with most of the selected Australian framework principles at the individual and department levels. An appreciative inquiry of the qualitative data identified markers’ desires for increased professional development, infrastructure and resources, and personal motivation. Considering our markers’ experiences, we propose several actions in a workshop format to provide insights for developing better structures and policies for retaining, training, and engaging with sessional staff.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Higher education relies increasingly on marginalised sessional staff working as teachers or assessment markers.
  2. Professional development and socially inclusive environments for sessional staff improves quality of teaching and learning and creates a respectful working environment for all.
  3. Our survey of our sessional markers’ views found they agreed with most of the standards developed in Australia and comments on their own experiences helped us identify positive areas and points for immediate improvement in our local context in New Zealand.
  4. We recommend permanent staff connect with sessional staff to offer professional development and greater opportunities to increase recognition, professional development, and systematic feedback.
  5. We propose a one-day conference plan and evaluation form to increase quality of teaching and learning and strengthen relationships between permanent and sessional staff.